Thursday, May 24, 2018

Massive work to begin at Marriott site next week (Photos)

Just as Purple Line construction is ramping up, and two cranes have been erected at the 7900 Wisconsin project, Marriott is getting the green light to begin its complex headquarters project along Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues. Disruptive underground utility work that will cause temporary sidewalk and lane closures will begin May 30. There will be no signaled pedestrian crossing of Wisconsin Avenue between Norfolk Avenue and Old Georgetown Road on the west side of the street, according to a Marriott press release.
Then, on June 18, sidewalks and lanes will close along Wisconsin, Woodmont and Norfolk Avenues for an eight-week demolition process. Once again, there's no indication that the impotent Montgomery County Council will enforce its laws regarding sidewalk closures during construction. Demolition will include the shell of the Bethesda Court Hotel, Tako Grill and the Blackwell Building.

Actual construction of Marriott's headquarters, which is merely relocating downtown from the Rock Spring area, will start in July. Moribund Montgomery County hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in two decades.

"#Resist?" This is the Montgomery County
Council, so more like, #Capitulate

Philz Coffee to open at Bethesda Row

Those disappointed that downtown Bethesda is still lacking a Starbucks Reserve store may be interested to know that California-based Philz Coffee will open its newest location at Bethesda Row. Philz Coffee, which in recent years made the leap to the Washington, D.C. area, seeks serious coffee aficionados.

The Philz Coffee menu lacks the sugary specialty drinks found at Starbucks and other mainstream coffee shops. Instead, each cup is brewed to order from customized blends with as many as 7 beans in each. Staff are supposed to be be highly knowledgeable about coffee, and share that information with customers as a sommelier might at a wine bar, taking into account flavors and aromas.

Speaking of wine bars, Philz Coffee will move into the old Vino Volo space on Woodmont Avenue, between Fish Taco (opening in June) and Mon Ami Gabi. Will they be too close for comfort to juice and coffee bar neighbor Joe and the Juice? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bethesda construction update: Amazon Books store (Photos)

Here's a sneak peek at the progress inside the future Amazon Books store at Bethesda Row. The store is scheduled to open this summer at the corner of Arlington Road and Bethesda Avenue.

Dormify opens, VIP closes at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda (Photos)

If you're experiencing deja vu with the latest tenant moves at Westfield Montgomery Mall, you're not alone. Pop-up Dormify, which just opened on Level 1 outside of Nordstrom, has been around since its early days in 2013 as a kiosk at Bethesda Row. It has most of what you need if you are heading off to college this summer.

Departing for what seems like the 8th time is VIP Outdoor. You can probably bet money that they will be back in another location at the mall in the near future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Thelo Greek Grill to open May 24 in Bethesda

UPDATE May 23 at 6:11 AM: Missing photos of the restaurant interior were added

Thelo Greek Grill has set a new opening date, this Thursday, May 24, 2018. The restaurant, located at 8009 Norfolk Avenue, takes over the old Bistro LaZeez space.

Owner John Panas, who was born in Greece, promises that the cuisine will offer the true flavors and hospitality of his native country. Most ingredients will be from local sources, and non-GMO. The chef will be Stavros Dimitriou.

The restaurant's interior reflects Greece, as well, with white walls, blue chairs, and a blue ceiling. A Santorini mural will anchor the dining room's decor. Greek music will round out the atmosphere, and Panas says he aims to keep prices affordable.

Indochino opens at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Custom menswear retailer Indochino has opened at 4856 Bethesda Avenue at Bethesda Row. The formerly online-focused clothier offers shirts, suits, accessories and wedding collections. This is their second D.C.-area location, with the first being in Tysons. As the store says, "Suit Up Bethesda!"

Monday, May 21, 2018

Public meeting finally scheduled for CCT crossing on Little Falls Parkway

Can you see the cyclists crossing with all
of the poles, signs and headlights blocking your view?
Extremely dangerous
After excluding the public from the decision-making process for more than a year-and-a-half, Montgomery Parks will finally hold a public meeting regarding the future of the Capital Crescent Trail crossing at Little Falls Parkway on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 7:00 PM, at Somerset Elementary School, which is located at 5811 Warwick Place in Chevy Chase. The parks department arbitrarily installed a road diet on the parkway, which extends far beyond the crossing in both directions, in January 2017.

The road project was found to be an illegal use of funds, as a fund dedicated to maintaining trails countywide was utilized instead for a road diet project. Yet, the County Council has not condemned nor investigated the illegal expenditure. Once installed, confusion and traffic jams have resulted over the last 17 months. The bollards that now litter the closed lanes in each direction made the crossing less safe, by blocking drivers' views of pedestrians and cyclists crossing the road.

A kneejerk decision after a fatal accident at the crossing - in which the driver was found to be NOT at fault - was a purely political move in the County Council's War on Cars. The fact remains that vehicles, not trail users, have the right-of-way at this crossing; County officials should start enforcing those laws, instead of adding to the traffic congestion they've already caused countywide.

Westfield buys Macy's building at Montgomery Mall

Westfield has purchased the Macy's store building at their Montgomery Mall property in Bethesda. The sale price was $20,000,000, according to real estate records. This follows the mall owner's purchase of the Sears store building last year.

Both Sears and Macy's have sought to sell some of their real estate portfolios nationwide in recent years. Now that Westfield owns the Macy's space, can they make them tidy up the men's dressing rooms? Yikes.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Two Towers: 2 tower cranes being erected at JBG Smith's 7900 Wisconsin project (Photos)

JBG Smith's 7900 Wisconsin project is immense enough to require two tower cranes to build it. On Saturday, many drivers were taken by surprise to find Woodmont Avenue closed at Fairmont Avenue, as crews began erecting the two cranes.

R Family Kitchen and Bar to be replaced by 202 Next Door on Fairmont Avenue

Alvaro and Alonso Roche, the prolific brothers behind many downtown Bethesda and D.C. dining ventures, have announced that their R Family Kitchen and Bar at 4901-A Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda has closed this weekend. They will reopen the space on May 29, 2018 as 202 Next Door.

202 Next Door will take the area's most-Instagrammable donuts, breakfast sandwiches and Vigilante coffee from next door's 202 Donuts & Coffee, and add a new menu of light lunch and dinner options, snacks designed for sharing, and a craft cocktail bar. The Roches say 202 has outgrown its small space next door, and the expanded 202 Next Door will be able to accommodate the crowds in a more comfortable setting with couches and free WiFi.

More details on 202 Next Door will be coming soon, as the menu and concept are finalized. Given the quality and inventiveness of the food at each venture the Roches have launched, I'm surprised at the last two closures (this and the well-reviewed TapaBar), but look forward to what they've come up with this time.

Pepco has power grid issues in Westbard area

The new Pepco is still like the old Pepco in the Westbard area of Bethesda off River Road and Massachusetts Avenue. Businesses and residents have experienced several power outages over the last few months alone. None were directly weather-related. None involved downed power lines or trees.

Last night, the most recent outage occurred just after 10:00 PM, and affected parts of the Sumner, Springfield and Glen Mar Park neighborhoods. The outage lasted about 10 minutes in some places, and required people to - yet again - reset all clocks, and tally up the losses in damaged appliances and devices. Others were still without power an hour later, with an estimated restoration time of 2:00 AM.

Businesses like the Westbard Giant and McDonald's have lost substantial sums of money during the recent outages. Yet, there's no indication that Pepco is addressing what are clearly problems with their grid infrastructure in the Westbard area. The result is a continuation of the Third-World uncertainty about the reliability of electrical power in that part of Bethesda.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thai ice cream rolls are coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

The Thai ice cream roll phenomenon that started with Class 520 in our area is coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Zero Degree will be located by Godiva on Level 2. Will it have the lines of Class 520 when it opens? Stay tuned!

Nutrition Corner to open in downtown Bethesda

Nutrition Corner is opening a downtown Bethesda location at 7026 Wisconsin Avenue. The nutrition supplement retailer grew from a mom-and-pop shop called Cape Cod Nutrition Corner in 1997 to a chain now centered in the Mid-Atlantic. They carry over 150 brands of supplements at "everyday wholesale prices," and promise to educate customers before suggesting a product. Nutrition Corner takes over the recently-vacated Golden City space.

The Baked Bear Pike & Rose review (Video+Photos)

The Baked Bear, which opens today at 1:00 PM at 929 Rose Avenue at Pike & Rose, held a soft opening last night. I ordered the most popular item on the menu, which is the ice cream sandwich.

From the options available, I chose a peanut butter cookie for the top of the sandwich, and a chocolate chip cookie for the bottom. My ice cream filling selection was their famous and Instagram-ready Bear Batter flavor, and I picked Oreo cookie bits as my topping (although in this case, they go around the sides - and were generous Oreo cookie chunks complete with cream filling, rather than simply crumbled Oreo chocolate bits like most places).

Watch my complete review, and see video of the restaurant interior, now.